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The Brief: May 19, 2015

Lawmakers are quick to say that the incident that left nine biker gang members dead wasn't relevant to the discussion of open carry despite some committee witnesses who attempted to draw a connection.

Sen. Joan Huffman R-Houston

The Big Conversation

Legalization of the open carry of handguns by those who have already fulfilled the requirements for a concealed handgun license took another step toward reality on Monday. A Senate committee reported out the bill on a 5-1 vote, clearing the way for its arrival on the Senate floor sometime soon.

Discussion of the bill had been scheduled well in advance of the Sunday shootout between biker gangs in Waco that left nine dead, 18 wounded and many more in custody. And while some witnesses said they thought an open carry law might make an incident like the one in Waco more dangerous for law enforcement, lawmakers were quick on Monday to to discount any connection.

"This bill does nothing to try to legislate against criminal behavior," said Senate State Affairs Chairwoman Joan Huffman, R-Houston, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. "This bill does not have anything to do with what went on yesterday."

Gov. Greg Abbott more or less echoed the sentiment when he said on Monday“Well, the shootout occurred when we don’t have open carry. So obviously the current laws didn’t stop anything like that." The bill has already been approved by the House and Abbott has previously indicated he would sign open carry legislation that makes it to his desk.

Trib Must-Reads

Without Two-Thirds Rule, Senate Moving Patrick's Priorities, by Aman Batheja — When the Texas Senate changed requirements on bringing legislation up for debate, Democrats said a process intended to encourage compromise would suffer. Several bills have been unblocked, but the conservative steamroller that Democrats feared hasn't emerged.

Campus Carry Faces Last Hurdle in Legislature, by Morgan Smith and Julián Aguilar — With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, the Texas House is all that is keeping a stalled measure requiring public universities and colleges to allow concealed handguns on their campuses from reaching the governor's desk.

George P. Bush Headlines Red Carpet Alamo Event, by Ryan McCrimmon — A Lone Star-studded audience including Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Cecilia Abbott, the first lady of Texas, got a sneak preview of the new miniseries Texas Rising at a red-carpet fundraising event Monday night at the Alamo.

Officials Dispute Stickland's Claim That Investigation is Over, by Aman Batheja — Two officials involved in an investigation into whether state Rep. Jonathan Stickland improperly registered witnesses to testify on a bill banning red light cameras disputed Stickland's claims Monday that he has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Cannabis Oil Approved for Epilepsy Patients, by Aman Batheja — Epilepsy patients in Texas suffering from seizures could get prescriptions for medicinal oils containing a non-euphoric, therapeutic component found in marijuana under a bill tentatively approved by the House Monday.

Abbott Signs "Denton Fracking Bill", by Jim Malewitz — Saying Texas needs to avoid a “patchwork of local regulations” that threaten oil and gas production, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed legislation that would pre-empt local efforts to regulate a wide variety of drilling-related activities.

Trojan Horse Resolution Draws Abbott's First Veto, by Bobby Blanchard — In his first veto, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday killed a seemingly routine resolution honoring mental health workers after finding a surprise hiding in the text.

Pearson Loses Bulk of Texas Student Testing Contract, by Morgan Smith — For the first time in three decades, a new company will develop and administer the state-required exams Texas students begin taking in the third grade.

Senator: Abortion Bill Could Prompt Lawsuit Against State, by Alexa Ura — A measure to enact several restrictions on minors seeking abortions without parental consent was met with legal concerns on Monday when a Senate panel considered the proposal.

Perry Says He Would Not Have Ordered Invasion of Iraq, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry on Monday said he would not have invaded Iraq knowing what he knows now. It's a question that has animated the GOP's 2016 presidential field in recent days.

Judge Who Referred to DA as "New York Jew" is Reprimanded, by Bobby Blanchard — Accused of making offensive comments and holding a 15-hour court session without restroom or food breaks, a district judge in Texas' South Plains has been publicly admonished and instructed to seek four hours of training with a mentor.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

•    House Public Education takes up SB 14 by Larry Taylor, more commonly known as a "parent trigger" bill that would make it easier for parents to make changes in the operation of their low-performing school (E2.036)

•    Senate Business and Commerce is scheduled to take up HB 786 by Armando Walle on the right to pump breast milk at work (E1.016)

•    Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development is set to take up HB 14 by Geanie Morrison extending the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) for another eight years and HB 26 by Angie Chen Button that would authorize a major overhaul of the state's economic incentive funds (E1.012)


Complex investigation continues into deadly Waco biker melee, Houston Chronicle

Grapevine officer not charged in fatal shooting of Mexican immigrant, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Same-sex couples would be denied adoption, fostering in Texas under amendment, The Dallas Morning News

Lawmakers optimistic that college construction bonds will be approved, Austin American-Statesman

Texas Senate may stick with House’s pension fix, Austin American-Statesman

Mayor’s husband steered clear of previous police investigations, San Antonio Express-News

In new policy, struggling Ben Taub diverts patients when ICU is full, Houston Chronicle

Judge questions hospital company’s motive in Ebola nurse’s lawsuit, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

“It’s like the Wild West. These guys become very violent to each other very quickly over nothing.”

— McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, on the emerging theory that the deadly shootout among biker gangs in Waco on Sunday might have been fueled by a dispute over a parking spot at the restaurant where they had gathered

Today in TribTalk

A state power grab in disguise, by Gene Terry — A proposal to impose stricter revenue caps on counties may sound fiscally conservative, but it would only serve to erode local control.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    How'd the House Do? A Conversation About the 84th Legislative Session on May 21 at The Austin Club

•    How'd the Senate Do? A Conversation About the 84th Legislative Session on May 28 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation About Texas Monthly's Best and Worst Legislators 2015 on June 18 at The Austin Club

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Dan Patrick George P. Bush Greg Abbott Joan Huffman Rick Perry